Unrest Erupts in West Bank Town As Arabs Prepare for Peace Talks

Violence erupted in the West Bank on Sunday, as intifada activists sought to sabotage the Arab-Israeli peace conference due to open Wednesday in Madrid.

An Israel Defense Force soldier was seriously injured in Nablus, when a local youth dropped a heavy brick on him as his patrol passed through a narrow alley.

Another soldier wounded the assailant in the leg. He was apprehended later at a local hospital.

Palestinian leaders for the most part, however, were hailing the upcoming peace talks.

Activists backing the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Al Fatah faction staged a pep rally in the Nablus casbah on Sunday in support of the peace conference, which has been endorsed by PLO chief Yasir Arafat.

The Arab world, meanwhile, engaged in intensive diplomatic activity over the weekend to hammer out a unified Arab position in Madrid.

The Palestinian delegation, which will negotiate with Israel under a Jordanian umbrella, met in Cairo on Sunday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and then returned to Amman for further consultations with their Jordanian partners.

The delegation went to the Jordanian capital on Friday, traveling in a festive procession from East Jerusalem to the Allenby Bridge with an Israeli police escort.

The Arab states reportedly have pledged to make no separate peace with Israel. Farouk Kaddoumi, head of the PLO’s political department, declared in Paris on Sunday that the Arabs have agreed that the bilateral phase of the talks will not begin “until Israel stops building settlements” in the administered territories.

He said that was agreed on last week by the foreign ministers of Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt. But none of the Arab countries has alluded to such a condition.

Last-minute talks were held Sunday in Ismailia, Egypt, between Mubarak and Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa, who gave Mubarak a letter from President Hafez Assad.

Mubarak and Assad said over the weekend they did not intend to go to Madrid for the conference opening, although Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is leading his delegation there.

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